Department of Veterans Affairs' Implementation of Information Security Education Assistance Program
GAO-10-170R: Published: Dec 18, 2009. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 2009.
The Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006 authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish an educational assistance program for information security. The Information Security Education Assistance Program is envisioned as a means for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to attract and retain individuals with advanced skills in information security. The legislation authorizes the agency to establish scholarships for qualified students who pursue doctoral degrees in computer science and electrical and computer engineering at accredited institutions and to offer educational debt reduction for VA employees who hold doctoral degrees in these fields. This letter responds to the act's requirement that we report on the scholarship and education debt reduction programs within 3 years of the act's December 22, 2006, enactment.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has not begun to award scholarships or offer and disburse loan repayments under the Information Security Education Assistance Program, although it has taken some steps to implement the program. Since 2006, VA has drafted governing regulations, which are now undergoing internal review, and has developed a budget impact analysis. After the department's internal review is completed, several additional steps are planned before the regulations are issued, including review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a public comment period. Department officials anticipate that the debt-reduction portion of the program will begin, and the first scholarship candidates will be selected, during 2011.